A gang erected a “false wall” with a concealed door at an industrial unit in Co Waterford to conceal a cannabis grow house valued at €320,000.
A 46-year-old man was jailed for ten years for possession of controlled drugs for sale or supply with the final two years suspended at Waterford Circuit Criminal Court on Tuesday (January 18th).
Judge Eugene O'Kelly heard that Keith Wilmot of Ashley Court, Cleaboy, Waterford city, had steady employment as a doorman with no previous convictions prior to the arrest, but had embarked on a “parallel life” and took on a senior role in a drugs operation operating out of the seaside town.
The unit at 4D in the Riverstown Industrial Estate in Tramore had its own irrigation system and was able to bypass the main electrical supply without the utility provider becoming aware of the heavy use, Garda John Murphy of Tramore's Drugs Unit told the court.
An open plan area, past the false wall, was fitted out as a growhouse containing thermometers and heaters. Inside were 340 cannabis plants as well as hydroponics allowing cultivation of the plant.
Tramore Gardaí, under the direction of Inspectors John Hunt and Shay Keevan, raided the unit with the support of the Garda Armed Support Unit on January 18 2019, executing a search warrant under section 26 of the Misuse of Drugs Act.
They arrested Wilmott and detained him at Tramore Garda Station, where he was interviewed and had his phone seized. He later pleaded guilty.
'Daming text messages'
Text messages on his phone showed the defendant feared gardaí would detect the growhouse after an extractor fan ceased working, and he messaged others to say he had arranged to move the operation to a bigger and more secure unit.
They also showed him offering to pay €200 per day for people to help harvest the plants.
Judge O'Kelly said the "damning text messages" showed he was not just a cleaner, as Wilmott originally told gardaí, but someone who "cultivated and recruited others to harvest the plants, and who organised sales" from the growhouse.
The court heard that Wilmott had at least a "medium range" role in the criminal enterprise, if not higher. He was nonetheless working for others who had yet to be caught, his defence team said.
Across nine interviews with gardaí, he provided names of two men who he worked with along with a description of a third.
Garda Murphy said they were unable to trace these men and were also unable to trace the monies seemingly involved in the overall enterprise, adding that Wilmott did not lead a lavish lifestyle.
However, a second man is due to appear before the court later this year in relation to the case.
Colman Cody SC, for Willmott, accepted the case was of a serious nature and said his client had been under financial pressure following the breakdown of his marriage, and is currently providing for his two children and his partner.
A probation report, while commending Wilmott as of good character and at low risk of reoffending, noted he "accepted very limited responsibility" for his role in the drugs operation, which Judge O'Kelly took into consideration.
He added that Wilmott was not a vulnerable person and did not suffer addiction issues, instead entering the drugs business of his own accord.
State barrister Conor O'Doherty said the sentence where the market value of the drugs is €13,000 or more, the person convicted is liable for a minimum sentence of 10 years.
Judge O'Kelly applied that sentence with the final two years suspended. They must be spent under the supervision of the Probation Service, he said.
He added that he would not be directing an order to review Wilmott's accounts and granted him two counsel and a solicitor in case of an appeal.